Technology is being used more and more in schools all over the globe and teachers have an ever-expanding array of tools to use both for the class room and homework assignments. One of the newest additions is MyHistro, a free website to create timelines. Histros Inc., the company behind MyHistro has a background in history visualization. Their first project was Histrodamus.ee, an award winning website where people could learn about the history of Estonia using an interactive geolocated timeline. As good and original as it was, the website still had some limitations. Web 2.0 is all about collaboration and content creation rather than content consumption. Think about the Wikipedia revolution. Encyclopedias have been curated by scholars for centuries and are a great source of precise and reliable knowledge, and so is Histrodamus.ee, with its team of editors. Yet Wikipedia is an incredible tool that we couldn’t live without anymore and its secret lies in the collaboration between regular users. This very same idea is what prompted MyHistro. Teachers have now access to same design and functionality that made Histrodamus great and can use free and easy to make timelines to teach students around the world. These timelines allow students to study history interactively and socially, making history learning more appealing to digital natives who are more used to Social Networks than they are to books. Being on the Web the content is accessible from anywhere, even from mobile devices, thanks to their iOS and Android apps. But where these timelines really shine is in their three-dimensionality. We are not talking about the latest blockbuster movie here, we are talking about being able to understand clearly the what, when and where of history. I remember being a student myself and having to memorize names and dates without actually being able to connect the dots. Thanks to myHistro now the dots are right in front of you. These timelines can be played like a slideshow or browsed through in no specific order by clicking each single events on the actual timeline or on the map. They are a great way of presenting the class with some visual aids and very good studying material to prepare for a test because they contain all the notes from the teacher. Some teachers have been using them as assignments too, to asses the understanding of the topics they taught in the class as well as the writing skills of their students. Timelines and events can be co-authored, making them extremely good for group assignments. Embedded here is an example of a timeline created by a student. Don’t you think that this student now has a clear understanding of the whole picture, having had to pin point every single battle in time as well as in space?
Google Maps is an incredibly useful tool, one that I personally use every week (often daily) to find my way around town, locate bus stops and businesses, get point to point directions, and to look up places I travel to (like the one below of our trip to New Zealand).
I use it in school as well to teach students about geography, follow book plots, create maps of field trips, locate places they are learning about, and to take virtual field trips (zoom around the Colosseum below).
Recently, Google came out with a great little Maps tutorial called Start Here. The tutorial takes you on a journey through Google Maps showing you how to do things like create maps with locations, photos, and links, get driving directions, use indoor maps, explore street view, and many other useful skills. This is a great tutorial for students and adults as well.
Google recently improved upon Google Earth and introduced a historical imagery slider so that you can compare locations with how they looked previously (as far back as imagery is available for any particular location).
Another great new features is 3D trees. With the release of Google Earth 6, there are more than 80 million trees which include over 50 different species. Watch the short video below to learn more.
EdTechIdeas: Google Earth is a great, free tool for students to learn about places in the world, geography, distance, topography, and many other things. Now, with the historical slider, students can get a first hand account of how things change over time due to human “progress,” and how natural disaster shape the earth. 3D trees is a great tool for studying the environment. Students can zoom in to the amazon and identify different types of trees and discover the layers of the rain forest first-hand (well, sort of). A combination of the historical slider and 3D trees would be a nice tool for students to use as a visual for an oral report about deforestation.
One thing kids (and adults) often have trouble with is the concept of scale. Understanding how big or small something is can be difficult if there is no familiar reference point of which to compare. Here are 3 sites that help students gain an understanding of size and how certain occurrences that happen on our planet compare to places that they are familiar with.
If It Were My Home allows students to choose a disaster and place the disaster somewhere familiar to show the vastness of its destruction. Another feature is the country comparison, which highlights certain aspects of what your life would be like if you were born in another country compared to where you were born. Unfortunately, you cannot change the default comparison country (US). Perhaps this will change in future versions.
Show World visualizes the countries of the world not by land mass, but by certain data entered. For example, in the map below showing the world’s current oil supplies, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela appear largest due to the fact that those 2 countries house the largest reserves.
Here’s a pretty cool mash-up from Google. The great Trans Siberian Railway, the pride of Russia, goes across two continents, 12 regions and 87 cities. The joint project of Google and the Russian Railways lets you take a trip along the famous route and see Baikal, Khekhtsirsky range, Barguzin mountains, Yenisei river and many other picturesque places of Russia without leaving your house. During the trip, you can enjoy Russian classic literature, brilliant images and fascinating stories about the most attractive sites on the route.
Here’s a video preview, but to get the full experience, go to the site and follow the route on the map while looking at all the sites out of the train window.
Great for classes studying maps, Russian history and geography. Teachers could assign different sections of the route to each student and have student’s research the regions and cities along the route. Story starters: Students watch a section of the video and then write a story from the point of view of one of the original passengers. Math: Students calculate the distance between stops. Estimate how many miles of rail was used in construction. Estimate the weight of the rails.